Seoul: 10 Things to see and do


If you are looking for a city break that offers culture, themed cafes, and cool stuff to see and do, then you can call off the search and head to Seoul. The capital city of South Korea that is famous for K-Pop and kimchi, is worth visiting!

Here are my top tips on what to do when you get there.

See the changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Try and avoid visiting on Tuesdays, as it is closed. If your schedule allows, try and visit on any other day at 10am or 2pm and you will be treated to the ceremonial changing of the guards. It only lasts about 10 minutes but is worth watching. You can also buy tickets onsite to visit part of the Palace. It wasn’t very expensive, and the tickets were easy to get from the ticket machines.

Seoul - Gyeongbokgung Palace
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace

Explore the streets of Bukchon Hanok Village

A 15-minute walk away from the Palace, you will find the traditional village which is worth wandering around. You might want to take a break at one of the many coffee shops it is home to and indulge in a spot of people watching. It is not uncommon to see tourists dressed up in their hired traditional Hanbok outfits ready to have their photograph taken. We enjoyed spotting the husbands and children that had been made to dress up against their will and were being dragged around and forced to smile for the camera.

Have lunch around Insadong

We enjoyed walking around this lively area of the city that is not too far away from Bukchon Hanok Village. You can get lost in its network of alleyways, enjoy a meal at one of its many eateries, feel cultured at the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple or for a more modern activity visit the Alive Museum and Dynamic Maze. We opted to visit the poop themed café, but more about that later.

Seoul - Insadong

Take the cable car up to the N Seoul Tower entrance

You can get on the cable car up to the Tower entrance from the Myengdong area. We also saw buses making their way up there and if you don’t like the sound of that you can always walk up there. We chose to do the 5-minute cable car ride up and the 20-minute walk down.

We didn’t go up the Tower, but we did enjoy panoramic views of the city and reading all the padlocks that are attached to the fences with declarations of love from around the world. If you’d like to go up the Tower, you can get your tickets here.

Seoul - N Seoul Tower

Check out the Gangnam style

Made famous in the 2012 hit by PSY, the area was not at all what I had expected. Disappointingly there was no one dancing down the street Gangnam Style. This area is a business district, and you can see smartly dressed locals heading to and from the office.

We headed there on a rainy morning to see the Starfield Library, located in the COEX Mall, Seoul. This building with its eye catching interior is billed as a book lovers paradise. But to be honest, we saw more people pretending to read and get the perfect shot for their Insta. As no one in my family is bothered about amazing photographs it was a bit of a washout, but we did manage to shelter from the rain for a while.

Seoul - Starfield Library
Starfield Library

Visit Hongdae at night to see street entertainers

This area will be right up your street if you want to combine a spot of shopping and spontaneous street performances by locals, who are keen to showcase their talents. Sadly, when we went, we didn’t see anyone dancing along to K-Pop but we enjoyed some of the themed cafes the area has to offer.

Learn more about North Korea on a DMZ tour

Seoul - DMZ

Visiting a demilitarized zone whilst on your holidays may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but we wanted to know more about Korean history so after much searching, we booked a tour with Viator. Many of the reviews warned that even if you book the 10am tour you will be contacted and told the pickup time from Seoul has moved to 5am, if you want to go into the actual demilitarized zone and then you must hang around for a further 3 hours waiting to do the tour.

This is exactly what happened to us, but we were offered an alternative tour with an 8.30am pick-up that covered most of the same ground, but no tunnel tour. Not surprisingly none of us were keen to go on the tour at 5am so we chose the second half day tour with a later start and no shopping option. In the interest of fairness, it is not just Viator that changes the time once you have booked. It is common practice and we were glad we did the tour as the tour guide was lovely and we were far more knowledgeable about Korean history at the end of it. I just wish the tour companies were more transparent about the timings of the tours before you book.

You might have better luck with Klook’s DMZ Tour.

Itaewon for bars, restaurants, and backpackers

The area is famous for furniture and foreigners. Back in the 1960s US soldiers sold their furniture to stores in this area before returning home. Nowadays you can find furniture on sale from all over the world alongside restaurants selling food from every continent.

Eat street food in Myeongdong

One of my children’s favourite things to do was wander through the street food stalls and decide what to sample next. There was so much to choose from and often they wanted to go back the following day to have the same food all over again. They highly recommend the corn dogs, dumplings, fried potato on a stick with garlic powder, and for dessert the popular candied fruit snack Tanghulu, which surprisingly does not originate from Seoul. Left to there own devices I think they would have survived on corn dogs and Tanghulus alone.

Seoul - Myeongdong
Fried potato on a stick

The area is also famous for shopping, but it reminded me of Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur market with less choice and was more expensive, so I wouldn’t go there thinking you’re going to get a whole new wardrobe. The only thing we bought were snail face masks – just to clarify the face masks were not for snails but are meant to be very good. I am willing to try anything to slow down the aging process.

Take a break at a themed café

You’ll want to reward yourself for all the steps you’ve been clocking up whilst out walking around Seoul, so what better way than to take advantage of one of the many themed cafes that Seoul is famed for. There is literally something to appeal to everyone. The one that stands out in my mind that we visited was the Ddong Café. Situated in the Insadong District and tucked away on the third floor of a shopping area, this poop themed café was not to be sniffed at with waffles served in latrines (clean ones) and rose flavoured lattes in toilet bowl shaped cups.

Seoul - Poop Cafe
Ddong Café

Where to stay and how to get around

We stayed at an Airbnb in the Myengdong area which is popular with tourists. We found it a good place to base ourselves as it was within walking distance of a Metro stop, the cable car to the N Seoul Tower and the food stalls.

We’ve used Metro systems all around Asia and been able to work them out, but we gave up with the one in Seoul and opted for walking or grabbing a cab. We particularly enjoyed the luxury Kia cars they use as taxis. There is also the option of renting scooters, so if you are interested in that you may want to register before you get there as you need to download an app and provide driving license details.

However, I have saved the best two pieces of advice until the end. Firstly, South Korea is one of the few countries in the world where you can’t use the blue dot of Google Maps to guide you around, so try alternatives like KakaoMap or NaverMap. However, luckily for us, Google translate did work as we used it practically everywhere we went! Never have I hovered my phone over so many unfamiliar symbols and see them magically change into English and been so grateful.

If you’re looking for another city break, why not head to Hong Kong?

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